The People of the Abyss - Jack London

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The People of the Abyss - Jack London

Fiction - Modern Fiction - ISBN: 1421815710

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Review of "The People of the Abyss - Jack London"

published 07/11/2017 | rolandrat123
Member since : 23/03/2012
Reviews : 966
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Pro Educational and interesting
Cons Some may find it slightly old fashioned and a bit dismal
very helpful
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"A thought-provoking read - makes you appreciate what you have"

The Product

The People of the Abyss by Jack London, written in 1902.
Paperback: 180 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Ill edition (27 Feb. 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1482642964


£4.99 new on Amazon or 49p for the illustrated Kindle version. You can get an un-illustrated Kindle book for free.
There are also audio versions on Youtube of around 6 hours.

Basic Story

Jack London is an American author who went ‘under cover’ in London’s East End in 1902 to get a real experience of how the poor lived and existed. He then produced this first-hand account of the conditions that so many of the poor lived and died in.

My Opinion

Even though it was written so long ago and is written in a slightly stilted and antiquated style I found this book fascinating.

Jack London was prepared to ignore his friends advice and bought old clothes and went about as a poor USA sailor, on hard times, and queued up for the night beds in the Workhouse, stayed at Dosshouses – where you only had a tiny box to sleep in among many other men.

The true scale of the problem sounds immense. The poor, often hard working people who somehow found their means of survival removed maybe due to illness or accident. Once someone was unable to earn their meagre wages they were on the slippery slope down to the very bottom of society. With no money they could not pay rent – not even for a shared room. Those who could not afford anywhere, not even a shared bed where three people would often rent the same bed for 8 hours shifts through the day, they were then forced to walks the street - and walk they had to as the police ensured that no one sleep on the streets at nights – so the numerous policemen would wake and move on these unfortunates, until finally morning came and the parks opened and they were able to go in and grad a bench, or just a piece of grass to catch up on some sleep.

Jack London shows how, far from being lazy, these people are just exhausted, both form tramping the streets through the night, often in the rain, but are also hungry and malnourished. They are therefore now too exhausted and weak to ever get a job again. They have nowhere to wash, so place to sleep, and as Jack puts it – they have a miserable future with death at the end of it.

Jack found that dressed in his rags the poor people would open up and speak to him, as he was then ‘one of them’. Once when they failed to get into a Workhouse for a bed and a meagre meal he produced a hidden coin form his vest and took them for a meal – but as soon as they knew he was from a higher class they clammed up and he lost the warm rapport that they had previously enjoyed.

Unlike previous works relating to the conditions and lives of the poor, this was a first-hand account and it was a method that George Orwell was to later emulate.

Why ‘the abyss’? – apparently this was a well-known term of the time for the urban poor and had previously been used by H.G.Wells.

One reviewer when the book first came out stated that it would be "difficult to find a more depressing volume’, however I did not find it depressing, but very interesting informative.

It is indeed hard to imagine how depressing and despairing the lives of these poor people would have been, with no hope and nothing to look forward to – just old age and infirmity and then either ending up in the Workhouse or else putting yourself out of your misery by suicide. Even those poor wretches who tried and failed to kill themselves were then hauled before the courts and sentenced – to add insult to injury.

Even those poor men who managed to get a bed for the night in the Workhouse would have to work for many hours to ‘pay’ for it – either breaking stones or doing other horrendous chores such as cleaning the waste from hospitals – which was contaminated with all sorts. These poor wretches would then be given food – which was the leavings of the hospital patients and could have been infected with goodness knows what.

Some poor men, being unable to work or even get a bed for the night would be so hungry they would pick up black and rotten apple cores and bits of old orange peel from the mud and filth of the gutters.

This is a very enlightening book, not really an uplifting story at all but one that is worth the reading and enabling us to appreciate what we have these days and recalling how hopeless some poor wretches existences really were.

Star Rating

5 stars.

Would I Recommend?


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Product Information : The People of the Abyss - Jack London

Manufacturer's product description

Fiction - Modern Fiction - ISBN: 1421815710

Product Details

EAN: 9781421815718

Type: Fiction

Genre: Modern Fiction

Title: The People of the Abyss

Author: Jack London

Edition: Paperback

Publisher: 1st World Library, Ltd

ISBN: 1421815710


Listed on Ciao since: 08/06/2009